Review by midwinter

Reviewed: 09/06/04

Rap: Behind The Lies

When on the subject of rap music, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Guns? Drugs? Burly, angry looking gangsters pimping their skanks on the street perhaps? Whatever your answer may be, I'm willing to bet that it has absolutely nothing what-so-ever to do with Japan and the incredibly polite (yet quite odd) people that live there. Furthermore, I'd also lay my hip street credz on the line and wager a small fortune that calligraphy wasn't even a consideration. And while this may be so, where cult Japanese developer NaNaOn-Sha is concerned, nothing says rap more than a horse hair brush and a fat, fat jar of thick black ink. Public Enemy, NWA, Run DMC, they had it all wrong! Rap wasn't ever about the gold chains and baggy pants. People, we are a generation brought up on the lies and fabrications of a sub-culture too ashamed to admit the truth! We've been had! Put down you spray cans and throw away your over sized accessory clocks. Whether you can accept it or not, it's time we got real and faced the truth...

Or, perhaps not... before we get too carried away in our denouncement of popular culture, it's probably best to bear in mind that this is NaNaOn-Sha we're talking about. The very same nut jobs previously responsible for Vibri, the wire frame rabbit. What?! You don't know of them? It's ok, for the most part the rest of the world doesn't have a clue either. What you should know however is not to take anything NaNaOn-Sha do or say seriously. For they are not only the poster children of the mentally unbalanced, they just so happen to be the Lithium centerfolds of the year as well. It's with this somewhat disturbing fact in mind then that we enter the world of Mojib Ribbon, their first venture out of the asylum since the bygone days of Vib Ripple and the PS1. Be warned though, what you're about to experience is about as far from the commercial mainstream as gaming gets. And while Mojib Ribbon may be many things, it's also, and please forgive me for this, insanely compelling. Spelt capital "F", small "u", small "n", says fruity... repeated every so often under your breath for full effect.

For the most part, Mojib Ribbon plays exactly like any one of the countless other rapping calligraphy games before it. And by that I mean it's totally unique. But how do you describe such a thing? I honestly doubt even the late great Tupac himself could have rapped his way around this one! If I told you that players were to assume the role of Mojib the ink blotch homeboy, only to walk in circles on clouds of Japanese Kanji (written characters), would you think me insane? What if I were to go on and say that you had to paint a new character on each cloud before completing a set and being elevated on to the next level? And that all the while, Mojib would be rapping his way closer to nirvana with some cold cutting words that honestly speaking, sound a lot like utter gibberish. Would you have me incarcerated for crimes against mental stability? Or would you slap a health warning on the game and restrict it to over 18's only? I for one would certainly hope it to be the latter...

As little Mojib-kun cuts what could possibly be a verbal swath through any number of indecipherable topics, players must concentrate on getting their Kanji characters painted. Thankfully however, the initially intimidating techniques usually associated with Japanese calligraphy have been reduced to a mere up/down motion of the analogue stick. Disappointed?! So it may not be the fully realistic Kanji sim you were perhaps looking for, but it's a technique that just so happens to jive perfectly with the happening lyrics. Miss a Kanji cloud and Mojib-kun will trip and fall, spilling his precious black ink and thusly knocking his soulful Japanese pride a bit. Run out of the black stuff though and you'll find yourself unceremoniously thrown back to the main menu screen where the brushes will no doubt begin to dis you. Wai! Wai! Wai! Homies chillllll!!! Right... now... get your groove thing happening smoothly and you'll be moving up in the world. The lyrics get faster, the challenge gets harder,and all the while your ink starts to become more and more valuable. And that as they say, is that.

Believe me or not (and my doctor says it's now safe to), Mojib Ribbon's conceptual freaky-ness has been evenly matched by it's incredibly unusual graphical style. From Mojib himself to the 3d background elements that swirl past the screen as if players were in a dream, the game has the look and feel of being designed with the broad strokes of whopping great big calligraphy brush. And while the black outlines of each object are rough and sketchy at best, it's a style that's both instantly appealing and perfectly suited to Mojib Ribbon's overall theme. It may not win any awards for the best usage of dynamic lighting or the most polygons pushed around per second, but it's sure to catch your eye! NaNaOn-Sha further pull players into their maniacal grasp by allowing for an element of customization where the lyrics are concerned. At certain key opportune moments throughout the game, players can enter the names of their friends and loved ones thereby giving the whole experience a uniquely personal feel. It may not seem like much, and if the truth be told it probably isn't, but it's still nice to hear my name in a rap that doesn't involve my mother and her friends down at the crack house.

Sound like fun right? Well unless you're absolutely crazy then yes, yes it does! And Mojib Ribbon is also entirely original which is kind of nice too. Unfortunately though there's very little else to the game other than what I just described. As Mojib-kun busts out the lyrics, you walk in circles and paint your Kanji. Round and round you go, getting a feel for the rhythm and shaming yourself at the same time. It's all so kooky and strange yet utterly compelling in a pick up and play kind of way. Shallow though it may be, Mojib Ribbon is gaming best suited to those looking for quick, easy to swallow shots of fun served up in 20 minute mouthfuls. Where some may be instantly enamoured by such whacked out simplicity, those looking for a game that takes days, if not weeks, to learn and master will want to look for their thrills elsewhere. For Mojib Ribbon is quite unashamedly its own beast. And one that doesn't particularly care, desire or even want to, appeal to ye average gamer. It takes a special kind of person to appreciate the delights of what's on offer here, and that key statement alone may be enough to pique the interest of some. The only question however is, are they even likely to find such a low key release? Hunt it down if you can, otherwise you'll be wanting to keep those old baggy pants on stand-by... just in case you know...

* Well, it's unique
* The gameplay is simple yet strangely compelling
* There's a huge amount of stages waiting to be challenged
* Mojib Ribbon is pick up and play easy
* Players can customize some of the lyrics themselves
* There's a great sound to little Mojib-kun's stylings
* Graphically Mojib Ribbon is a game you won't soon forget
* A true NaNaOn-Sha classic

* The simple gameplay may turn some players away
* Mojib Ribbon could be seen as repetitive after a while

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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